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How to Stress Test a WordPress Website in 2021

October 14, 2021

10 Min Read
website stress test

With everyone getting in on embracing digitalization by developing a website for their business, there are some crucial factors you have to prioritize for the success of your ecommerce store. One of these is a website stress test (or load test).

Gone are the days when people needed to pay hefty amounts to developers to build their websites. WordPress has made the job easier, and thanks to its page builders, virtually everyone can develop their own ecommerce stores, without any coding knowledge.

That said, you’ll want to make sure everything is working right on your website before it goes live, so it is always suggested to run a website load test first.

Remember, your ecommerce website is only as powerful as the resources you allot it. Going for a cheap hosting plan and ticking the minimum requirements may save you some cash at the time, but you’ll find it detrimental once your traffic increases.

Thankfully, some hosting providers like Cloudways offer their users the freedom to scale their plans as per their requirements. But that’s not the case with all providers, so do your research.

In this piece, we’ll list the WordPress load test prerequisites, the steps you’ll take to perform a stress test on your WordPress site, and some tips to manage and improve a website. Skip to the relevant section, or read through the entire blog for a deep understanding of WordPress stress testing.

What is Stress Testing?

Before we list the steps to run a stress test on a WordPress website, let’s understand the meaning, purpose, and importance of a stress test.

Sure your website is rocking right now, but what if luck strikes your way and one of your blog posts goes viral? A stream of users lands on your page, but then your site sags under the load, giving them a “BAD USER-EXPERIENCE”. You don’t want that, right? Well, that’s when you learn the importance of stress testing, which keeps you prepared for situations like these.

Stress testing helps you determine your website’s performance when it goes through a certain amount of stress or load sent via software.

You can conduct a stress test in different environments, in low, normal, or high traffic; the user has the freedom to customize the load test and notice the results.

Remember not to send unrealistic loads on your website. Evaluate realistic numbers, exaggerate them a bit and then send that load to your WordPress website to check how it handles. Note your average traffic to have an idea of the estimated load at peak hours or in case of a special event.

All in all, a stress test helps you to create faux traffic so you may experiment with your site’s performance by sending a stream of users on your site simultaneously. The test helps you determine your website’s strengths and limitations, so you may optimize it to handle the traffic surges at any time.

WordPress Load Test Prerequisites

WordPress stress or load testing involves sending “fake visitors” to your site, but this can clash with your hosting provider in some cases. There are a few prerequisites that you must follow to safeguard yourself from any such inconveniences.

Many hosting providers offer packages that allow only a limited number of visitors on your site, and once that number is exceeded, it results in extra costs. In some cases, your site may get suspended when it experiences such unusual traffic.

  • Go through your hosting plans’ terms & conditions before running a stress test, as many of them count your site’s visitors and have their own set of rules to implement in certain conditions.
  • Due to the handling of multiple resources, load testing can crash your site or make it dead slow and unresponsive. So, the best practice is to conduct a load test before making your website live.

How to Run a Stress Test on a WordPress Website

Let’s proceed with the steps to run a stress test on a WordPress website.

As discussed earlier, you need a tool to send the faux traffic to your site, so we will be using Loader.io as it’s a trusted tool for load testing. Follow these easy steps to run the load test on your WordPress site:

Sign up on Loader.io

  • Sign up for a free Loader.io account for trial purposes.

Note: Loader.io is a load testing tool, and its free account lets you test up to 2 URLs per test. If you are running a WooCommerce site, you can test on yoursite.com and yoursite.com/shop, so the free plan is quite sufficient – it allows testing up to 10,000 simulated visits.

sign up on loader

Add Your Website’s URL

  • Click on the New Host button and start configuring your test.

Add new host on loader

  • Verify your email address, then add your website’s URL.

verify your email

Test Configuration

  • Once you’ve added the URL, click the verify button to get the verification file, or you can also do a DNS verification.
  • Download the verification file.

Test Configuration

Create an SFTP User on Cloudways

  • After downloading the file, create an SFTP user on your Cloudways dashboard in the Access Details tab.

create an sftp user on cloudways

Upload the Verification File

  • Use FileZilla or any SFTP client of your choice.
  • Connect to your server by using the credentials obtained from the previous steps and upload the verification file to public_html.

upload the verification file

Verify via Loader.io

  • Once your file has been uploaded, go back to the Loader.io dashboard and click Verify.

If Loader.io fetches the file and everything goes fine, you will see a green confirmation message. Click on the text to create your first test.

loader target verification

Create a Test

  • After your website’s verification, create a test by naming it, picking up the simulation type, and the number of visits to simulate during a specific time period.

create a test

Run the Stress Test

  • Click the Run Test button to start stress testing on your WordPress website.

run the stress test

Observe the Results

  • Watch the real-time simulation of your website.

We’ve simulated 250 visits per minute, with zero timeouts and response time between 277ms-720ms averaging 365ms which is an excellent result.

observe load test results

You can also check your server’s performance during the stress/load tests from your Cloudways dashboard server management. Notice that one of our CPU parameters only saw 5% usage to serve 250 users in one minute.

Host WordPress on Cloudways’ for a Stress-Free Experience

Scale your plan up and down anytime as per the requirements.

monitor the stress test results

How to Manage a High Traffic WordPress Site

Every ecommerce store owner is always hungry for more traffic, but what happens when they actually attain their dream traffic? What if their site is too weak to handle high traffic and crashes? Every blogger’s nightmare is a broken site just when a stream of users has simultaneously visited.

So how does one manage a high-traffic WordPress website? Well, there are a set of prerequisites every website owner must follow to manage traffic surges.

Upgrade Your Hosting Plan

They say the more, the merrier; the analogy applies to your choice of hosting provider as well as a better hosting plan. This will help you handle high traffic much better than a restricted cheap hosting plan. You may request your hosting provider for a managed application upgrade. Cloudways allows you to easily scale up your server when you need more resources.

upgrade your hosting plan

Cloudways offers tools to upgrade safely, as you can clone your server and perform the upgrade in the cloned server. You may also clone the application on the same server and then perform the upgrade. It is recommended to never do a direct upgrade on your production website.

Server Resources

A reliable web server coupled with adequate server resources is crucial to run your WordPress website without any troubles.

Since high traffic volumes can put ample pressure on your web server, you need to ensure that your server resources are good enough to provide adequate processing power and memory.

Additionally, ensure that your hosting provider gives the latest versions of MySQL and PHP for a hassle-free WordPress site experience.

Have a Minimalist Approach

Having a minimal approach to your WordPress site will eliminate half of your problems. Pick a theme that complements your brand even as it withstands high traffic. Don’t stuff up your site with a gazillion plugins. Instead, install those that add value to your site.

Use a Caching Plugin

Caching reduces the total load on your website; once you utilize this, WordPress views the HTML versions of your blogs rather than PHP to increase speeds. WordPress caching can get a bit technical, but many free caching plugins like Breeze efficiently caches your content to serve it to your visitors.

breeze caching plugin

How to Improve WordPress Site Performance

A website’s performance is directly proportional to the user experience, and a good user experience translates into better rankings, and hence more traffic. The question is, how does one improve their WordPress site performance? We have solved the mystery by providing the five magical hacks to drastically enhance your site performance.

Invest in Managed WordPress Hosting

The most common mistake that newbies make is compromising on their hosting provider and plan for the sake of cutting costs.

Sure, you can get cheap hosting plans from various hosting providers, but be ready to sacrifice your site’s performance once the traffic starts coming. Cheap hosting can’t sustain load and stress. It will surprise your website visitors with unwelcome slow speeds and possibly a crash.

managed wordpress hosting

What’s the point of planning and investing in your website’s content when your cheap hosting can ruin everything? The ideal step to launching your WordPress website is to invest in a reliable and trusted hosting provider like Cloudways that provides an affordable, scalable, and secure hosting plan.

Test your current hosting plan with a stress test on your WordPress website, and in case of unsatisfactory results, switch to Cloudways to witness astonishing results.

Reduce DOM Size

DOM or Document Object Model is the structural form of your HTML document, which is rendered using CSS and JavaScript. Too technical? If you have ever analyzed your WordPress website via Google PageSpeed Insights, you would have seen an error message saying, “Avoid an excessive DOM size.”

reduce DOM size

Higher DOM size can increase memory usage, TTFB and result in higher parse and render times. Improving your WordPress site’s performance requires the user to reduce their DOM size.

You can decrease the DOM size by lazy loading the videos, comments, and images on your site and segregating pages with excess content into separate pages. Additionally, using an SEO-friendly theme and trusted page builders can also help in reducing the DOM size.

Use a CDN

Content Delivery Network or CDN is a server network that is located all around the world. CDNs host your website’s content like CSS, JavaScript, etc., but are different from your WordPress host. They can help in boosting your website speed and eliminate slow loading issues.

CloudwaysCDN

Some reliable hosting providers like Cloudways offer their own CDN (CloudwaysCDN) as an add-on that provides a hassle-free experience and speeds up your website, improving user experience.

Update the PHP Version

Did you know that WordPress is primarily written in the PHP language, and the same language runs on your server as well? Using an outdated PHP version negatively affects your site’s speed and results in slow loading and many other issues.

Update the PHP version to run things smoothly on your site. If you want to upgrade your PHP version on Cloudways, then go to Server > Access Detail > Settings & Packages tab and select your preferred PHP version.

Update the PHP Version

Cloudways uses PHP 7.3 as the default version, but it also lets its users opt from 5.6, 7.0, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and 8.0 PHP versions.

Clean Code WordPress Theme

The majority of WordPress website owners choose themes based on aesthetic looks, which shouldn’t be the ideal metric to consider. Always select a theme that is not only optimized for speed but offers clean code.

A WordPress theme that has a plethora of features involves extra coding blocks, which increases your site’s loading times. Go minimal, and choose a lightweight theme for ultra speed and performance.

Wrapping It Up

Just as we humans can only tolerate a limited amount of stress without breaking down, so is the case with our websites. So, don’t be unkind to your WordPress website and run a load or stress test before going live to understand how much load your site can bear easily.

We have explained all the steps to conduct a stress test/load test on your website. Additionally, we have covered the tips and secrets to tackle high traffic and improve your site’s performance.

Once you are done with following all the steps, you can test your site for the Core Web Vital signs on Cloudways’ free testing tool. The results will help you analyze the factors that need to be improved on your site to increase the speed and number of visitors that your server can deliver.

We also ran a test to get our metrics:

result metrics

Remember, if your website is not optimized, it will use more server resources than it should, reducing the chance to serve more visitors with a good experience and site speed. Instead of just increasing resources, one should optimize the site’s performance since sometimes performance issues cannot be fixed by adding more RAM or CPU to your server.

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Sarim Javaid

Sarim Javaid is a Digital Content Producer at Cloudways. He has a habit of penning down his random thoughts and giving words and meaning to the clutter of ideas colliding inside his mind. His obsession with Google and his curious mind add to his research-based writing that inspires others.

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